Idea Surplus Disorder #11

In this edition: slow learning, continuous improvement, asking better questions, the value of anticipation vs. belief, hybrid work, multiple futures, bicycles, emojis, and and more.

Welcome to Idea Surplus Disorder.  I’m Matt Homann, the founder of Filament, and I’m glad you’re here!

I've been recovering from a (relatively) minor surgery last week, so have had time to read more than normal.  That means a longer newsletter this week.  I apologizie for all the extra ideas!

In this edition: slow learning, continuous improvement, asking better questions, the value of anticipation vs. belief, hybrid work, multiple futures, bicycles, emojis, and and more.

Ideas + Insights

As I've been recovering from surgery last week, I've had lots of reminders from friends and loved ones to "take it easy" for a while.  However, we rarely offer similar advice to our teams that deliberate is OK sometimes.  That's why I really loved the Manifesto for "Slow Learners" and believe these rules should have a home in every learning organization:

Focus on direction, not destination. Immerse yourself completely in the journey and you will reach your final goal gradually.
Raise your hand. Asking questions is a fundamental human right.
Leave it unfinished. We live in a super busy, multi-tasking, results-oriented society. Step away from your long to-do list and enjoy once in a while the beauty of an unstructured day.
Unlearn and forget. Harness the power of unlearning. Reboot your mind, abandon old knowledge, actions and behaviours to create space.

This is such a great challenge to a team:  don't worry about being the best; be the best at getting better.  The big takeaway is to set explicit "process goals" vs. outcome-focused ones:

Rather than focusing solely on outcome goals (such as winning a competition or achieving a certain level of success), set process goals that are focused on continuous improvement. For example, instead of just aiming to win a race, focus on improving your technique, endurance, and speed over time.

I fell down a Sunday morning rabbit hole reading posts on Eliezer Yudkowskyis' Rationality: From AI to Zombies.  Eliezer is a decision theory and artificial intelligence researcher, and explores decision-making, language, philosophy, and so much more.  Here's one favorite insight:

Above all, don’t ask what to believe—ask what to anticipate. Every question of belief should flow from a question of anticipation, and that question of anticipation should be the center of the inquiry. Every guess of belief should begin by flowing to a specific guess of anticipation, and should continue to pay rent in future anticipations. If a belief turns deadbeat, evict it.

Mental Supply is a collection of mental-health tips for founders.

Multiverse notwithstanding, there are two different versions of the future:

The Future Present is a point in time in the future that will eventually become the present. In contrast, Present Futures deal with what’s in our minds in the here and now regarding our wishes, hopes, expectations and assumptions about the future.

The Question Formulation Technique (thanks, Bob!) is a simple framework for generating questions vs. brainstorming ideas. Here are the rules for participants:

  1. Ask as many questions as you can.  
  2. Do not stop to discuss, judge, or answer the questions.
  3. Write down every question exactly as it is stated.
  4. Change any statement into a question.
  5. Remind people to follow the rules each time you use the technique.

This seems so obvious, but the reason some of your people still want to work from home is that their daily in-office, back-to-back Zoom-conference experience doesn't feel any different than doing the same thing from home.  So to make hybrid work meaningful, focus on the in-person interactions:

The emerging reality is that in-person interaction is critical for many aspects of culture, people growth and quality control.
The debate is not between not coming into the office or coming into the office most of the week. Rather is is how to combine the benefits of in-person with those of distributed work.
And to ensure that in office is really about in person versus a form of control, absence of trust, input monitoring and the inability of a management class to learn to be leaders versus bosses.

Sketchplanations draws simple images of a wide variety of concepts like Apricity, Temperature, Groupthink, and Planning.

This guy tried 200 AI tools and these are the best.

Finally, I feel heard!  A new study confirmed that emojis need context:

Across social media, messages get more likes, retweets, clicks, and purchases if emojis are supplemental:
Good: Arrested Development is so funny 😂
Bad: Arrested Development is 😂
When inserting emojis, keep the verbal context.

Fun Finds

The physics of the bicycle.

BuyItForLife is a Reddit-powered ChatGPT product recommendation engine.

WhichipediA is a simple quiz game asking you to choose which of two topics has the longest Wikipedia article.  Devlishly difficult!

Whatever the problem, it is probably solved by walking.

Words of Wisdom

‌"Without music, life would be a mistake." – Nietzsche
The kinder and the more thoughtful a person is, the more kindness he can find in other people.  Kindness enriches our life; with kindness mysterious things become clear, difficult things become easy, and dull things become cheerful. – Leo Tolstoy
“The way we spend our time defines who we are.” – Jonathan Estrin
The problem with people is that they’re only human. – Bill Watterson
Words are events, they do things, change things. They transform both speaker and hearer; they feed energy back and forth and amplify it. They feed understanding or emotion back and forth and amplify it. – Ursula K. Le Guin
"Some things torment us more than they ought; some torment us before they ought; and some torment us when they ought not to torment us at all. We are in the habit of exaggerating, or imagining, or anticipating, sorrow. – Seneca
The fool, with all his other faults, has this also, he is always getting ready to live." – Epicurus
"Ambition is when you expect yourself to close the gap between what you have and what you want.  Entitlement is when you expect others to close the gap between what you have and what you want." – James Clear


I was on a podcast talking about big meetings and conferences.

Our next N.S.F.W. (New Skills for Work) session is April 24th and we're going to talk Brainstorming best practices.

We're launching a Business Book Club.  Look for more info next week!

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